How Did Ancient Hunters Hunt Bison?

It was dangerous work, for 10,000 years ago the bison were one-third larger than those killed by Buffalo Bill during the late 1800s.

But early Americans had little choice, as the bison provided them with food, blankets, tools, clothing, and the materials from which many of their homes were built. They could not kill the bison a few at a time, for these people had no horses and could not follow the great grazing herds. They had to kill all the animals they would need until the herd passed that way again.

This job was often easiest in winter, when snow and ice could help defeat the great animals. First, they would make a simple but wide trail marked by piles of brush and trees. It had to lead down a hill to a deep gully or streambed. Then they would pack down the snow on the hill and cover it with water so it would freeze.

The snow at the bottom was left soft and fluffy. When the herd approached, about 100 animals would be stampeded along the trail and down the slick hill. At the bottom the animals stomped around in the deep snow and found they couldn’t climb the hard-packed icy slope they had just come down.

The hunters killed the bison with spears and every usable part of the bison was removed using stone tools.